Women in tech: are they REALLY welcome?
Should we police or dictate how our employees dress? Should we only allow them to represent our brand if they have a specific body type or sense of style?
What about internet commenters or trolls? Is it ok for them to bombard our employees with abuse?
These were some of the questions that we were forced to consider after an (so we thought) innocuous social media post caused such an uproar.
- LinkedIn Campaign explained
- And then, LinkedIn did this
- Jayde’s video response
- Foursys’s Mission
- Foursys’s Pledge
On Thursday, 11 August, one of our cybersecurity account managers, Jayde, came up with the idea of an online competition, with a bottle of champagne as the prize. We would post it on our company LinkedIn page on Friday afternoon, the perfect time for more light-hearted community engagement.
So far, so innocuous.
But there was, apparently, a problem.
- Not with the online competition: these are a common sight on LinkedIn.
- Not for Foursys: we liked the idea. Jayde herself volunteered to organise the post, and what boss doesn’t encourage their staff go above and beyond?
- And not for most of you, who took part in the competition in the spirit that was intended.
But there definitely was a problem.
Turns out, it was Jayde.
Response to LinkedIn campaign
What Jayde chose to wear and how she looked inflamed bilious commenters into action.
Reading these, we were just floored. The vileness and the vitriol of the comments.... And this is all happening on LinkedIn, the trusted professional networking platform that we all use.
After careful consideration, Jayde decided to fight back, and we offered her our full support:
And then, LinkedIn did this:
To add to our frustrations, despite this LinkedIn campaign being hugely successful in terms of engagement, LinkedIn suddenly decided to delete the entire post. What happened? Was it the nasty comments? When contacted by us, LinkedIn prevaricated for 5 days, suggesting first an error on our part before blaming it on a technical problem, then finally concluding that the post was removed as they “determined that one of our Sponsored Updates violates their Advertising Guidelines or the LinkedIn Advertising Agreement due to 'Prohibited products'”.
Judge for yourself: here is a screenshot email thread between LinkedIn and Foursys over the last week.
We offer all those who joined the competition in good faith our sincere apologies. The competition, having been obliterated by LinkedIn, means we have no records or any access to the comments and guesses you entered (other than those few we took screenshots of during up-time). In light of the circumstances, we have decided to offer the bottle to Jayde, as a token to remind her of the day she fought back.
Now, we could piously write about how Foursys believes in empowering our female employees, and their right to self-expression. Of course, we do believe that. We even celebrated International Women’s Day on LinkedIn with this post last March:
Our premise is simple:
All employees should be able to do their jobs without suffering gratuitous personal insults based on their appearance.
So the question we’re left grappling with is this: what would you do if a professional, hardworking employee came to you with a good idea? Would you reject it out of hand because of they way she - or he - looks?
And we won’t.
We, as a company, have decided to redouble Foursys’s commitment to women in technology.
As part of this pledge, Foursys will:
- Create training courses that focus on avoiding and dealing with online abuse and cyberbullying by end of October 2016.
- Create a local meet-up group to share experiences and provide guidance to victims. The hope would be that this meet-up concept would spread to other locations all around the country by end of August 2016.
- Work more closely with schools to make young people more aware of online dangers and teach them online etiquette, starting in September 2016.
This has obviously been an emotional and stressful time for us all, but we really want something good to come out of it. Please help us.
James Miller, Managing Director
Jez Turner, Sales and Operations Director
Foursys supporting #WomenInTech